Answer Man: Which Republicans are running for NC governor against Josh Stein?
In today's edition of Answer Man, a reader asks for an update about who might be the next governor of North Carolina.
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Question: I saw that Democratic N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein announced his gubernatorial bid this month. Any update on the Republicans?
Answer: Actually, yes. I wrote the Jan. 18 Citizen Times story on Stein's announcement, something that didn't come as a major surprise to people who had been watching the state's main prosecutor appear to position himself over the last year for a 2024 run now that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is closing in on the end of his second four-year term, the maximum allowed by the state constitution.
In Western North Carolina, we've seen a lot of Stein. He has lent his voice to complaints about patient care provided by the for-profit HCA, which bought the nonprofit Mission Hospital in 2019. Stein gave that negotiated $1.5 billion sale the go-ahead but now wants to change state law that he says is hampering enforcement of the deal.
More:AG Stein files support in Brevard, Buncombe, Asheville, Madison case against HCA’s Mission
More:NBC Nightly News HCA report highlights Mission nurses, hospital conditions, patient safety
On the Republican side, far-right Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has all-but announced.
In the latest development, Treasurer Dale Folwell, another Republican marked as a potential candidate, responded to my question about whether he would run with the Jan. 23 text, "likely." Like Stein, Folwell has made multiple trips to WNC.
Count Western Carolina University political science professor Chris Cooper among those not shocked by Stein's announcement, with Cooper saying it "ranked on the surprise meter right along with the observation that water is wet and the sky is blue."
Cooper told me when Folwell and Robinson announce "it will be equally as (un)surprising."
"Mark Robinson appears to be the front-runner on the Republican side, but it is extremely early. Most of that conclusion is drawn from polling, which is notoriously unreliable this far out. While Robinson is indeed popular with the Republican base, at least some of his polling advantage is due to simple name recognition -- more people have heard of Mark Robinson than Dale Folwell," he said.
More:Lt. Gov. Robinson responds after viral video of confrontation with Sen. Mayfield
Along with being the first Black person to hold the lieutenant governor's office, Robinson has made news with extreme anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion sentiments. Folwell, meanwhile, is known for his stances on health care reform and his backing of a change in who administers the state health plan that serves half a million teachers and state workers.
Some have also pointed to GOP state Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler as a possible candidate Cooper said.
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The political science professor also noted that Stein might not get a free pass from his party, with rumors of primary opponents that could include two Black U.S. House members from the east and Charlotte.
"Although Stein raked up an impressive list of endorsements, members of Congress Don Davis and Alma Adams are not on that list, leaving many questions about whether they might have another candidate in mind," Cooper said.
Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government, and other news. He's written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at email@example.com, 828-713-1095, or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.